Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

12/12/12 and the Holy Father Tweets

Today is the twelfth day of the twelfth month or the year 2012 or 12/12/12.  There’s no particular significance to the day except as a curiosity of the calendar.  It is worth mentioning though that this won’t happen again in most of our lifetimes.  The next triple number day will be January 1, 2101 or 1/1/01.  So if you enjoy this sort of thing, today is your day.

Maybe the most significant thing about 12/12/12 is that it’s the day that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter.  As I write this, he has posted five times in six hours and has 840,750 followers.  I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it’s very impressive.  Sadly, many of the comments to the Holy Father’s tweets so far have been negative and hateful.  That should be a lesson for all of us.  When we put ourselves out there, proclaiming the Good News, we’re going to attract haters.  I say this from personal experience.

Like the Benedict, we’re called to ignore the negative, hang on to the positive, and continue to fight the good fight.  If you’re into Twitter, I hope you’ll follow the Holy Father and show your love and support.

Stop the presses!  In the time it took me to write this, the Pope has tweeted two more times and now has 845,766 followers or about 15,000 more in about ten minutes.  Considering that it’s still early morning in a big part of the world, I suspect he’ll have 1,000,000 followers before the day is over.

Follow the Holy Father on Twitter.

Monday of the First Week of Advent

francis xavierOn this first weekday of Advent we remember Saint Francis, Xavier.  How appropriate!  Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.  Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuit order was a Spanish missionary who spread the Word of God throughout Asia.  He visited IndiaJapanBorneo, the Moluccas, and other areas that had not yet been visited by Christian missionaries.   Having been to Asia myself, I can’t imagine what a monumental task his work must have been, trying to convey such an important message without being able to speak the native languages.

But aren’t we all called to spread the good news?  Our vocation may not call us to foreign lands, but doesn’t it seem like sometimes, when we want to share Jesus’ message, we might as well be speaking in a foreign tongue?  When we speak concepts like charity, and love of neighbor, faith, hope, and joy, it seems like we can’t communicate the message because the listeners just don’t understand the words.

Here, at the beginning of this prayerful and joyful season, let’s pray to Saint Francis, asking him to help us in our efforts to evangelize others.

 

Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us!

Married Priests?

Every once in a while someone brings up the topic of married priests.  “Wouldn’t it be great if priests could marry?”  “There wouldn’t be a shortage of priests if they could be married.”  “There would be no sexual abuse crisis if priests were married.”  And on and on.  Then you hear the usual criticisms, “It’s all about money.  The Church doesn’t want married priests because then they’d have to pay them more money.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they don’t want to have to take care of their widows.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because of the high cost of health insurance for families.”   “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they’d have to provide them with houses where they could raise their families.”  Again, on and on.

I’m no expert on the theology of married clergy, but since I am one, maybe I can shed some light on this subject.  Number 1, there are married Catholic priests.  Married priests from some other faith traditions can convert to Catholicism and become priests.  There aren’t a lot of them but they do exist.

Number 2, the Church’s teaching on married priests is a “discipline”, not a “dogma”.  What’s the difference?  Disciplines can and do change.  (Remember meatless Fridays?)  Unlike the “all male” priesthood which is a dogma of the Church and can’t ever change, the celibacy of priests could.  (See # 1 above)

Here’s the real issue.  Those who say they want a married priesthood haven’t really thought the matter through.  Here’s where my experience as a married deacon comes into play.  It’s not possible to give 110% to two vocations!  You say you want a married priesthood?  Let’s look at a very simple scenario.  Your beautiful daughter is in love.  She wants to be married.  She has her heart set on a big church wedding on June 1.  She’s already reserved the hall.  (Believe it or not, brides do reserve reception halls before they check on the availability of the church.)  She also loves Father Bob and will only be satisfied if he performs the ceremony. Only one problem; Father Bob’s  son graduates from the university on June 1, two hundred miles away.

Or on an entirely different level, grandma has been rushed to the emergency room.  The situation is critical.  Your faith tells you to call the pastor.  You need him right away.  Here’s the problem.  The pastor’s daughter’s dance recital is going on as we speak and he’s turned off his cell phone.  Grandma is called home before you can reach Father.

I can hear you saying, “But deacon, other religions have married clergy and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.”  The thing you have to remember, with all due respect to our brother clergy, Catholic priests are called upon to do far more then their protestant counterparts.  Anointing of the sick can only be done by a priest and medical emergencies always seem to happen at the worst possible time.  We just expect the priest to always be available.  Protestant churches seem to have larger staff that Catholic parishes, making it more difficult for priest pastors to delegate.  Priests are “married to the Church” forever.  Protestant pastors are employees who can be hired and fired and often are.

Then we have the marriage itself.  Our protestant minister friends have a divorce rate that’s very close to the national average so there’s no reason to think that married priests would do much better.  (BTW, they also have a similar rate of child sexual abuse).   But we belong to a Church that teaches that marriage is until death do us part.  What do you do with a divorced priest?  I imagine you do the same thing you do with a divorced deacon.  Transfer him somewhere where they don’t know his past.  But that’s not really much of a solution.

Just imagine how messy a priest’s divorce could become if the about-to-be exwife blames the Church (the other woman, so to speak) for the breakup. Yikes!

I’ll site an example from my own life and then I’ll lay this topic to rest.  I currently have a handful of parishioners who are mad at me because I left the Goulash Festival a half hour early to catch the tail end of my grandson’s birthday party.  On the other hand, I’m sure I disappointed the grandson by missing his soccer game and the rest of the birthday festivities.

So the members of my church expect me to be available 24/7 and my lovely, long-suffering wife says that when there’s a conflict the diaconate “always” wins out.  And, remember a deacon’s responsibilities are so much less than those of a priest.

Bottom line, you may think you want married priests, but when push comes to shove, you really don’t.  You want the sacraments to be available around the clock, 365 days a year.  You want the priest to spend his free time reading and praying and in general just “being a priest.”  You want him to hang out with the school kids and to never miss a meeting.

When you call the rectory you don’t want to hear that Father had to take his sick child to the doctor and is gone for the day.  The Church hasn’t survived for over 2,000 years by being stupid.  Someday the discipline may change, but I doubt it because it just makes too much sense.

4th Sunday of Easter–What’s in it for Me?


Normally I would post my Sunday homily but this week the topic was very localized focusing on our local Catholic Appeal and contributions to the chapel. I doubt if it would interest most of you.  But I would like to throw out a few thoughts on the topic of generosity.  Point number one is that God can never be outdone in generosity.  If you donate a dollar to the Church, that dollar will come back to you many times over.  If you volunteer for an hour, you will receive blessings far in excess of the value of your time.  So….even in the current “me” society, where so many people think the world revolves around them, there is plenty of motivation to share with others, even if you don’t understand that everything you have is a gift from God.

As a minister, I get very frustrated when people refuse to participate.  My current assignment is Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis.  In 1896 the church was leveled by a tornado.  The schools (yes, they had two) and rectory were also damaged.  The next morning the parishioners gathered at their formerly beautiful church and began to rebuild.  I’m told that many of the men in the parish took off work for six months to help with the rebuilding.  School children helped out by removing the debris from the site.

Saturday evening Saint Louis was hit by some serious storms.  My wife and I were having dinner at a restaurant (The Gast Haus) which is just a few blocks from the church.  The owner had herded us all into the basement to ride out the storm.  As I was waiting for the storm to blow over, I wondered what would happen today if  the church were destroyed by this storm.  Would all the members turn out the next morning, ready to rebuild?  I don’t think so.  We’re having a hard time getting people to work for an hour at our church picnic.

I don’t mean for this to reflect badly on any individual.  I think it’s just our society.  According to author Matthew Kelly, we live in an age of

  • Individualism
  • Hedonism
  • Minimalism.

None of these “isms” is compatible with Catholicism.  These attitudes are promoted by secular society, by Hollywood, and by the news media.  Briefly (You can get the whole story by reading Matthew’s book Rediscovering Catholicism, which you can get free by clicking the link in the right column.) society encourages us to ask “What’s in it for me?”  We’re encouraged that “If it feels good, do it!”  And we’re taught to ask “What’s the least I can do?”  It’s no wonder our pews are empty, our collections are down, and few people get excited when the government sets out to take away our religious freedom.

I believe that we, as a people of God, can turn these three “isms” in our favor.

“What’s in it for me?”  As I said above, God can never be outdone in generosity.  When I give back my time, talent, and treasure (which was never really mine in the first place) it will be returned to me many times over.

“If it feels good, do it!”  Guess what?  It does feel good to contribute.  It does feel good to help others.  It does feel good to participate.

“What’s the least I can do?”  We’re surrounded by people in need.  We could help each one.  But imagine how much time and money it would take to try to help each one of them.  The least you can do is to support the one organization that does help everyone, the Catholic Church.  We don’t have to personally feed the hungry.  The Church does that.  We don’t have to personally take care of the homeless.  The Church does that.  We don’t have to personally visit the prisons.  The Church does that.  The least we can do is to support our Church by giving back some of the time, talent, and treasure that has been generously given to us by God.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic–BONUS POST

Here I though I had everything planned out.  40 days of Lent.  40 posts.  Everything was just fine until I got to this weekend and realized that there are a lot more than 40 reasons for Catholic coolness.  But the list got shuffled over the last few weeks and here I am with five days left and six posts. So today is a bonus.  I’ll post the regularly scheduled topic later, but here’s another thing that’s cool.  As Catholics we always get more than we expect.

Today’s bonus reason why it’s cool to be Catholic is permanent deacons.  I almost left out my own vocation.  Doh!  Actually, we were on the list from the very beginning, but something else came along that bumped deacons to number 41.  Be that as it may, here’s why deacons make it cool to be Catholic.   Where the priest is ordained for the Eucharist, permanent deacons are ordained for service.

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.   They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.  Acts 6: 1-6

Deacons work alongside priests and are responsible to the local bishop.  We receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, just like priests, but we’re ordained to serve.  Service includes assisting the priest (or bishop) at mass.  There are certain parts of the mass that are reserved for deacons and some that are optional.  For example, reading the Gospel is the deacon’s job.  Giving a homily may be done by either the priest or by the deacon.  In some dioceses including my own Archdiocese of Saint Louis, deacons don’t automatically receive preaching faculties when they’re ordained.  It takes a year of service as an ordained deacon and another class to receive them.

A deacon is never an adequate substitute for a priest.  We can’t say mass.  We can’t administer the sacrament of reconciliation.  We can’t anoint the sick.  What we can do is perform other tasks that normally take up the priests’ time, freeing them up to do the things that only they can do.  Deacons visit prisons, we visit hospitals, we work with the elderly and the poor.  There deacons ministering to travelers at many airports and here in Saint Louis we even have a deacon whose ministry is a local truck stop.

There are deacons who teach in schools and in parish schools of religion and deacons who catechize people wanting to join the Church.  We prepare couples for marriage and work with families as they have their children baptized.  And, most of us maintain a secular job, providing a presence of the Church in the workplace.

And we pray.  Twice a day we pray the Liturgy of the Hours and we pray for you.

I’m not very comfortable telling you how great I am, because, frankly, I’m not.  I’m just a guy who heard God calling me to do more for Him and for His Church.  Like everyone else, some deacons are living, breathing saints and some  of us are just happy to serve.  One aspect of deacon coolness is that the vocation accepts married men.  If you’re a man, 35 years old or older, you might be called to the diaconate.  It’s something that’s worth spending the time to discuss with God in your prayers.

If you’re a woman, or if you’re a man who isn’t called to this particular vocation, it’s still cool that the Church restored the permanent diaconate after Vatican II.  There are about 16,000 permanent deacons in the United States, roughly 1 for every 2 priests.  Even though most of us serve on a part-time basis, that’s still a lot of men doing a lot of work for the Church; most of it without compensation.

Some of us do work that frees up our pastors to do other things and some of us do things that wouldn’t get done were it not for deacons.

You have to admit, that’s pretty cool.

 

Personal note:  I know there’s not a married deacon who won’t tell you that it would be impossible to have any kind of diaconal ministry without the loving support of a wife who keeps things going at home while we’re out doing our deacon thing.  I’m no exception.  I couldn’t do this without my wife’s help.  As I write this she’s out working in the yard.  On behalf of deacons everywhere, thank you ladies for making our ministries possible.

 

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #8 The Internet

Now, wait just a minute, deacon.  The Internet is NOT  Catholic.  Wasn’t it invented  by Al Gore?


Bear with me for a minute and I’ll tell you why I think the Internet makes it cool to be Catholic.  When Jesus formed His Church, just before his death and resurrection, there were only the twelve Apostles and a handful of disciples to spread the faith.  Evangelization was strictly a one-on-one matter.  Matthew’s Gospel ends with Jesus, after his resurrection, telling the eleven “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)  Obviously, since baptism was part of their mission, they traveled the world, preaching the Gospel and baptizing new Christians.

That was pretty much how it worked until 1450 when Gutenberg’s printing press made it possible to mass produce the written word.  Of course, most people still didn’t know how to read, but for those who could, a whole new world of evangelization became possible.  Still, one-on-one evangelization continued with those who lacked the ability to read.

It would be another 500 years or so before mass evangelization became possible with the invention of the radio.  Suddenly a speaker in a studio could speak to thousands of people at one time.  Many early radio programs focused on religion with the Catholic Church a primary source of programming.

The next advance in wide-spread evangelization would come much more quickly.  Still in the 20th Century television sets started appearing in people’s homes.  Who can forget Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen, who began his broadcast ministry on radio but who saw television as a new and better way to preach the Gospel to millions at one time.  His TV show dominated Tuesday night television from 1951-1957.  He won two Emmy awards.

In 1980 a nun from Alabama had the idea of starting a Catholic cable channel.  Mother Angelica’s EWTN is seen all over the world.  As of 2008, EWTN reached 146 million homes in 147 countries.

And that brings us to the Internet.  The World Wide Web is an amazing medium.  It contains a lot of bad stuff but the good stuff far outweighs the bad.  Using your home computer or laptop (or even your smart phone) you have access to all the greatest Catholic writers and preachers in the world.  As I mentioned in my post on the Church Fathers, the web gives you instant access to all the great Catholic writers.  Whether you want to read Augustine’s works, which are on-line, and in the public domain, which means you can download them for free, or modern Catholic thought-leaders like Matthew Kelly or Father Robert Barron are more your speed, it’s all right there.

There are hundreds of Catholic blogs where you can read the thoughts of Cardinals, bishops, priests, and even lowly deacons.  In fact, if you have something to say there’s nothing to stop you from hosting your own blog or podcast at little or no expense.

Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are another source of Catholic information and conversation that’s yours at the click of a button.  Email lists link groups of like-minded Catholics in an on-going conversation.  Boundaries of geography and distance are suddenly gone.  I have Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts all over the world and you can too.  I follow the Pope, Cardinal Dolan, and my own Archbishop Carlson on Facebook.  I also follow dozens of other deacons.  Nearly every Catholic parish has a web site and many are on Facebook as well.

Who could have imagined as recently as ten years ago that all the great works of the Church would be available right in our own homes?  Besides great writers, the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and all the documents of Vatican II are on-line in searchable formats.  You can read and search the Bible, in any translation you can think of, on the web as well.  You want to see exactly what Jesus said to the woman at the well?  Do a Google search for “woman at the well” and you’ll get over 70 million hits.  It’s just that simple.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II wrote, “The fact that through the Internet people multiply their contacts in ways hitherto unthinkable opens up wonderful possibilities for spreading the Gospel.”

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2010 on the occasion of the World Day of Communications, “The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16)” 

Just this week, there were 1,200 tweets on twitter concerning the Holy Father’s visit to  Cuba in the 60 minutes prior to the Papal mass.

No, the Internet isn’t Catholic but it is catholic, which means universal.  But it’s the most exciting tool for evangelization and education ever invented.  And we’ve just scratched the surface.  Who knows what miracles will come along in the next few years?   One thing’s for sure, it will be exciting.  Hopefully the Catholic Church will be at the forefront of anything that’s new.  For more information on the Church in the digital age, I recommend Brandon Vogt’s excellent book, “The Church and New Media”.

After all, the Pope is online and so am I.  If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.

PS.  No, Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #19 Scripture and the Mass

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters refer to themselves as “Bible Christians.”  I suppose they do that to differentiate themselves from “non-Bible Christians”.  That would be us.  There’s a wide-spread myth that Catholics are not Bible readers.  I’m sure you’ve heard some people criticize us saying that Catholics don’t own Bibles, or that we own them but don’t know where to find them.  On the surface, this myth may have some basis in truth.  But, lets look at the facts.

First and foremost, there’s the mass.  Just counting weekend masses, there are four selections from Scripture in the Liturgy of the World:  One Old Testament reading; a responsorial Psalm; a New Testament reading; and a reading from the Gospels.  Over 52 Sundays, that’s a total of more than 200 readings.  There is some duplication, and there are some Sundays when a second NT reading takes the place of the usual OT reading, but if you attend mass every weekend for three years, you’ve heard more than 600 Scripture readings.  Of course, if you attend daily mass, the total is much, much higher.  Because we’re a Church of structure, every Catholic Church in the world is supposed to be reading the same readings on any given Sunday.  Then there’s the homily where the priest or deacon, who is a student of the scriptures, relates the daily readings to our daily lives.  (Most of the time.  Nobody’s perfect.)

Some faith traditions give the minister the freedom to choose his own readings.  Face it, there are an awful lot of readings that nobody would use if they didn’t have to, so these ministers tend to focus on a limited selections of readings.

When you pass a lot of churches on Sunday morning, you’ll notice that the worshipers are carrying Bibles.  What’s up with that?  Since the Catholic mass has defined readings, we’re able to publish booklets containing each day’s readings called missalettes.  You don’t need a Bible because the readings are there for you in the pew.  Very convenient.  Of course, when you see a bunch of people walking around with Bibles in their hands, it’s not unreasonable to think of them as “Bible Christians.”

The prayers of the Liturgy of the Eucharist are very Biblical.  The words of the Consecration are taken directly from Scripture.  The Our Father and the Lamb of God are straight out of the New Testament.  We’re constantly exposed to the depth and meaning of the Word of God.  Of course, we’re expected and encouraged to explore the Bible on our own through personal and group Bible studies.

You are likely to run into a couple of arguments from your “Bible Christian” friends about Catholics and the Bible.  1. ” Catholic Churches used to chain down the Bible so the people couldn’t read it.”  As I wrote just two days ago, prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, all books (including the Bible) were very rare and expensive.  Plus, there weren’t a lot of people who knew how to read.  If a church was lucky enough to have a copy of Sacred Scripture, the wanted to be sure they kept it.  Saying the Church discouraged Scripture study by chaining down the Bible is like saying the bank discourages financial transactions by chaining down the pens.

2.  “At one time Catholics were forbidden to read the Bible.”  Once Martin Luther opened the flood gates, there were a number of new, unauthorized translations of the Bible.  By this time more people were learning to read but they might not have had the education or the experience to discern whether something called “The Bible” was the real deal.  To protect the laity from being sold a bill of goods, the Church insisted that they get their Word of God from the Church.

The bottom line is that every Catholic should be familiar with the Bible.  We’re encouraged to dig into the Scriptures.  But if all you do is go to mass every Sunday and Holy Day, you will know what the Bible says.

That’s extremely cool!

Sidebar:  To be a “Bible Christian” you don’t have to know what Scripture says, you just have to know where everything is.  In a typical sermon, the minister will say, “Turn to the sixteenth paragraph of the third chapter of the Book of John (today’s Gospel, by the way).  Then he’ll read it to you.  If you haven’t been practicing, by the time you find your place, he will have moved on.  

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #30 Subsidiarity

The word for today is subsidiarity.  Chances are it’s not a word you use every day.  It sounds like it might be something from the new translation of the Roman Missal.  In fact, it’s a principle that’s very relevant to our 21st century world, even if you don’t often hear the actual word.

Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should be made as close to the individual level as possible.  In its simplest form, let’s say I’m about to go to lunch.  Where I eat is a decision that’s best made by little ol’ me.  I don’t need any help choosing between a burger joint and a Mexican place.  But what if my wife and I are going to lunch?  Then it’s most likely a joint decision between her and me.  We don’t need to bring in a third party for their opinion and we certainly don’t need the government telling us where to eat lunch.

To put it into Biblical terms, remember what Jesus said about settling a dispute? ”

If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact can be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Mattthew 18:15-17.

That’s subsidiarity.

Church decisions are to be made at the lowest level where they can be effectively made.  The Pope, through the teaching office of the Church makes the big decisions; the ones that effect the whole world.  Anything less is delegated to the individual bishops.  The bishops make decisions which affect their (arch)diocese alone.  Smaller, more local decision making power is delegated by the bishops to their priests, and even to their deacons.

For example, if you and your Catholic high school sweetheart live in the same parish and you want to get married in that parish, that’s strictly between you and your pastor.  If you want to marry someone from another parish, then both pastors have to approve.  But, if you plan on marrying a Lutheran, then the bishop has to give his permission.

In my personal assignment, I’ve been delegated the operation of a Catholic chapel.  I have a letter from the Archbishop that says so.  I don’t need his approval to pay the gas bill, or to buy hosts, wine, candles, or anything else involved in running the church.  Recently we had to spend a large amount to replace the boiler in church.  For that I got the Archbishop’s permission.

This sounds like a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo.  What’s cool about that?

Here’s the thing.  Decisions that affect your faith are made as close to you as possible.  You’ll probably never, in your entire earthly life, have to write a letter to the Pope.  If you’re unhappy about something, talk to your pastor (or even your deacon).  If you’re still not happy, take it to the Bishop.  If you’re still not satisfied, you always have the option of taking your issue to Rome, but keep in mind that as the leader of one billion Catholics, the Pope’s a pretty busy guy.  Chances are, you’ll get satisfaction much quicker closer to home.

Here’s another example that might clarify subsidiarity.  For many years my church has celebrated midnight Christmas mass at 4:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.  Supposedly our people don’t like to come out at night.  Recently I’ve been asked to have midnight mass at midnight!  I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.  I’ll probably discuss it with some other clergy and with parish leaders, but in the end, it’s my call.  I don’t need the Archbishop’s permission, especially since I believe midnight mass is supposed to be celebrated, if not at 12:00, at least after dark.  A reasonable request, made at the lowest level of the hierarchy (namely me) will get the consideration it deserves.

And that’s why subsidiarity is cool.

 

 

 

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Today we begin a series of daily commentaries that will run through Advent.  This will be a test of my perseverance and your patience.  Enjoy!

The Entrance Antiphon for today’s mass is short and to the point:

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations;

declare it to the distant lands;

Behold, our Savior will come; you need no longer fear.

It’s from the book of the prophet Jeremiah and it says a lot.  First, we are to hear the word of the Lord.  During this time of Advent, our preparation for the coming of the Messiah, it’s especially important that we hear what God is saying to us.

Second, God calls us to share the word of God with distant lands.  That doesn’t mean that you should hop on a plane and fly half way around the world.  It does mean that we’re called to share the good news with everyone.  Of course, in this modern age, it is possible to share the Gospel with people in foreign lands from the comfort of your home via the Internet.  It’s what I’m doing right now.  But the key message here isn’t about geographical distance, it’s all about the sharing, even if our evangelization doesn’t extend any farther than our own homes.

Third, the prophet is assuring us that the Savior is coming.  We no longer have anything to be afraid of.  What a comfort!  No matter what happens in this life, we have the hope, through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we can spend eternity in perpetual light.
Make it a blessed Monday.